Feeding the Unwashed Masses

I am not a caterer.

Caterers have large refrigerators and big stainless steel warming trays and things like that. I’m a chef. I have knives. And I like to see the looks on people’s faces when they taste something good that I have made. It’s hard to do that when you’ve laid out a buffet for 200 people.

The menu

The menu

So, I approached the silent auction I was cooking for as if it was just a big dinner I was doing for 200 of my friends. (Which is essentially what it was anyway.) More

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Pizza Envy

Spicy squid pizza, ready for the oven

Spicy squid pizza, ready for the oven

James is one of my favorite dudes. He drinks fine wine and rides motorcycles and drives 4WD tractors and builds things and does all those kinds of things I think of real men as doing. But that’s not why I’m envious of James. I’m envious because he’s got a wood-burning pizza oven on the patio outside his kitchen. More

When God Gives You Plums

Or rather, when your neighbor Glennis — who is godlike in her own ways — gives you plums…

About this time every year, we get the call from next door. “The plums are ready!” The kids and I head over and wind our way down into the Watermans’ terraced backyard, where sure enough the plum tree is overloaded with beautiful purple plums. And we gather and gather and gather.

Plums as far as the eye can see.

Plums as far as the eye can see.

Unlike, say, a tomato plant which may continue giving you tomatoes throughout the season, a plum tree comes full and ready all at once. If you get a week, you’re lucky — especially with the incursion of various lean and hungry summer critters. More

The Strangest Pizza

I remember when Wolfgang Puck was cooking at Spago, the original one above Tower Records on the Sunset Strip. I went there a few times as a kid, always glancing about for a Warren Beatty or Jack Nicholson sighting. Years later, I would find myself sandwiched between Priscilla Presley and Paul Prudhomme at a private Chinese New Year dinner at his second restaurant, Chinois on Main. But that’s another story. Back to Spago… it was here that in addition to star spotting, you could sample such radical and then unimaginable pizzas as goat cheese and sun-dried tomato (wow!), smoked salmon with caviar and Thai chicken.

John Huston's table, Spago Oscars party, 1986

John Huston’s table, Spago Oscars party, 1986

I’ve made a few strange pizzas in my day. Never one to extol novelty for novelty’s sake, I mostly hew near to the Neopolitan standard, sometimes getting a little creative with my toppings — fresh eggs and caramelized fennel, for example, or Kurobata pork belly and pickled red onion — or exploring different cheeses. Occasionally I’ll build a pizza around a single unique ingredient — a particular wild mushroom I’ve found highlighted in a cream reduction. But every so often, I throw convention out completely to the whim of inspiration. More

Happy National Crab-Stuffed Flounder Day

Browsing the news items on yahoo.com, I was surprised to discover that today, February 18th, is National Crab-Stuffed Flounder Day.

Can you spot the flounder?

Can you spot the flounder?

Not only did I not realize it was a holiday, but I’ll admit I didn’t even know people stuffed flounder with crab. Not that I’m against the idea, mind you — I’ve been known to stuff everything from sushi rolls to artichokes with crab. Why not a flounder? More

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